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Posts Tagged ‘portal’

GovPond: An Australian Public Sector Data Portal

February 16, 2015 1 comment

Billed as a stop-gap solution on the path towards emulating some of the larger data portals (such as data.gov.au and open-data.europa.eu), GovPond is an Australian public sector data portal providing access to over 3,600 hand-curated datasets and 11 Government catalogues, including:

  • data.gov.au
  • data.sa.gov.au
  • data.qld.gov.au
  • data.act.gov.au
  • Landgate SLIP
  • data.csiro.au
  • Australian Ocean Data Network

GovPond

The motivation to develop the site stemmed from a previous exercise to collate public sector data sets after the site hosts discovered ‘an enormous number of tables and tools and maps and spreadsheets that were tucked away in dark, dusty corners of the internet, near-impossible to find with a quick search.’

For all the recent advances in liberating public sector data, it seems there’s still a niche for initiatives like these to get to those corners of the Internet and provide access to data resources that might otherwise elude all but the most determined data tracker.

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Adoption and Advantages of ArcGIS Open Data

January 25, 2015 2 comments

According to Esri’s 2014 Open Data  year in review,  over 763 organizations around the world have joined ArcGIS Open Data, publishing 391 public sites, resulting in 15,848 open data sets shared.  These organizations include over 99 cities, 43 countries, and 35 US states.  At the beginning of 2015, the organizations represent 390 from North America, 157 from Europe, 121 from Africa, 39 from Asia, and 22 from Oceania.  Over 42,000 shapefiles, KML files, and CSV files were downloaded from these sites since July 2014.  Recently, we wrote about one of these sites, the Maryland Open Data Portal, in this blog.  Another is the set of layers from the city of Launceton, in Tasmania, Australia.

While these initiatives are specifically using one set of methods and tools to share, that of the ArcGIS Open Data, the implications on the data user community are profound:  First, the adoption of ArcGIS Open Data increases availability for the entire user community, not just Esri users.  This is because of the increased number of portals that result, and also because the data sets shared, such as raster and vector data services, KMLs, shapefiles, and CSVs, are the types of formats that can be consumed by many types of GIS online and desktop tools.  Second, as we have expressed in our book and in this blog, while there were noble attempts for 30 years on behalf of regional, national, and international government organizations to establish standards, to share data, and to encourage a climate of sharing, and while many of those attempts were and will continue to be successful, the involvement of private industry (in this case, Esri), nonprofit organizations, and academia will lend an enormous boost to government efforts.

Third, the advent of cloud-based GIS enables these portals to be fairly easily established, curated, and improved.  Using the ArcGIS Open Data platform, organizations can leave their data where it is–whether on ArcGIS for Server or in ArcGIS Online–and simply share it as Open Data. Esri uses Koop to transform data into different formats, to access APIs, and to get data ready for discovery and exploration. Organizations add their nodes to the Open Data list and their data can then be accessed, explored, and downloaded in multiple formats without “extraneous exports or transformations.”  Specifically, organizations using ArcGIS Open Data first enable the open data capabilities, then specify the groups for open data, then configure their open data site, and then make the site public.

I see one of the chief ways tools like ArcGIS Open Data will advance the open data movement is through the use of tools that are easy to use, and also that will evolve over time.  Nobody has an infinite amount of time trying to figure out how to best serve their organization’s data, and then to construct the tools in which to do so.  The ability for data-producing organizations to use these common tools and methods represents, I believe, an enormous advantage in the time savings it represents.  As more organizations realize and adopt this, all of us in the GIS community, and beyond, will benefit.

ArcGIS Open Data

ArcGIS Open Data users and information.

Maryland’s Mapping and GIS Data Portal

September 29, 2014 3 comments

Maryland’s mapping and GIS “iMap” data portal takes an innovative approach to serving data.  It allows the user to zoom to a specific area on the map and then conduct a data search for that specific area.  Yes, other sites have done this for years, but the Maryland data portal uses a dynamic ArcGIS Online map to launch searches.  In addition, the 20 data categories listed–from agriculture to demographics, health to imagery, structures to weather–are rich in content, and the data user is offered numerous data formats to receive the data.  The site also goes the extra distance by providing step-by-step instructions on how to add web and WFS services, how to geocode, how to join data, and how to cartographically display results.

The GIS data portal is run by the Geographic Information Office (GIO), and by collaborating with partners, it seeks to “provide access to a large collection of data via the Maryland iMap that can be leveraged for use in many applications and analyses.”  The GIS data portal is a part of the state’s open data portal, which claims to be #1 in the USA for its commitment to open data.

We are honest in our book and in this blog about describing data portals that seem to be there “just for show” and that had no input from GIS professional staff.  The Maryland iMap portal, by contrast, is quite innovative, extensive, and GIS-user friendly, and seems to be a good model for other organizations to follow.  Such portals do not appear overnight, and this is obviously the product of a good deal of collaboration among government, private, academic, and nonprofit organizations,

Maryland's iMap Mapping and GIS Data Portal

Maryland’s iMap Mapping and GIS Data Portal.

Playas and Wetlands of the Southern Ogallala Aquifer Data Released

September 1, 2014 2 comments

A new web resource from Texas Tech University of playas and wetlands for the southern High Plains region of Texas, Oklahoma and New Mexico offers a wide variety of spatial data on this key resource and region.  The playa and wetlands GIS data are available for download here, including shapefile, geodatabase, and layer package formats.   The data include 64,726 wetland features, of which 21,893 are identified as playas and another 14,455 as unclassified wetlands; in other words, they appear to be a playa but have no evidence of a hydric soil.   The remaining features include impoundments, riparian features lakes, and other wetlands.

As we discuss in our book, (1) Many spatial data depositories seem to have been created without the GIS user in mind. Not this one.  Careful attention has been paid to the data analyst.  That’s good news!  (2)  Resources such as this don’t appear without a great deal of time and expertise invested.  Here, approximately 5,000 person hours were dedicated to create the geodatabase and website.  This project was made possible by Texas Tech University with funding from the USDA Agricultural Research Service – Ogallala Aquifer Program.

For users who only wish to view playas and other wetlands, a web map application exists and can be launched via the playa viewer.  A “citizen science” feature is that the map viewer allows interactive comments to be added to the map for future consideration.

Southern Ogallala Aquifer Playa and Wetlands Geodatabase

Southern Ogallala Aquifer Playa and Wetlands Geodatabase.

 

The National Atlas of the USA is Disappearing

July 6, 2014 2 comments

One of the most useful sites of the past 15 years for GIS users, in my judgment, has been the National Atlas of the United States.  It contains a “map maker” that allows you to create online maps of climate, ecoregions, population, crime, geology, and many other layers, and a “map layers” repository that houses all of the raster and vector data layers that are displayable in the map maker.  All of those hundreds of layers are downloadable in standard formats that are easy to use with GIS.

Sadly, the National Atlas is scheduled to disappear on 30 September 2014.  According to the transition FAQ, “the National Atlas and The National Map will transition into a combined single source for geospatial and cartographic information.  This transformation is projected to streamline access to maps, data and information from the USGS National Geospatial Program (NGP).  This action will prioritize our civilian mapping role and consolidate core investments while maintaining top-quality customer service.”  Thus, the National Map is scheduled to be the content delivery mechanism for the National Atlas content.

But, data users take note:  Not all of the National Atlas content is migrating to the National Map.  According to the FAQ’s question of “Will I still be able to find everything from the National Atlas on The National Map web site”, the answer is, “No. Most National Atlas products and services that were primarily intended for a broad public audience as well as thematic data contributions from outside the National Geospatial Program (NGP) will not be available from nationalmap.gov.”

I think this is most unfortunate news.  In my opinion, and that of many students and educators that I work with in courses and institutes, and the other data users I have worked with over the years, the National Map is almost as clunky and difficult to use as it was 10 years ago.  I use it frequently because it is still one of the richest sources of data, but it is by no means easy to obtain that data.  And equally importantly, it serves a different audience than the National Atlas does.   Yes, the National Atlas viewer is dated, but it requires little bandwidth, making it accessible to schools and other institutions contending with poor connectivity. How much effort is required just to leave national atlas alone and leave it online, with an understanding that it will not be updated?

In an era where more geospatial data are needed, not less, and improved geographic literacy is increasingly critical to education and society, the disappearance of the National Atlas seems like a giant step backward.

National Atlas website with Map Maker and just a few of the many data layers available.

National Atlas website with Map Maker and just a few of the many data layers available.

Swiss Open Government Data Portal

October 7, 2013 2 comments

During the recent Open Knowledge Conference in Geneva, the Swiss Federal Government announced the launch of a pilot release its new open data portal. The pilot project will initially run from September 2013 for at least six months, with a possibility of extension after the trial period ends. Working in conjunction with a number of public agencies, such as the Federal Office of Meteorology and  the Federal Office of Topography, the project aims to test the feasibility of providing a single interface to government data and to establish the foundation for a national Open Government Data Portal.

The currently available datasets are grouped into six main categories – population, education and science, legislation, policy, territory and environment, and management. All the data is available free of charge and may be downloaded as required. Download formats include .xls files, georeferenced TIF files, .pdf and .txt files.  The geographic datasets available include national borders, municipal and district boundaries, cantonal boundaries, and postcodes and place names.

Swiss Data Portal - post code areas

Swiss Data Portal – post code areas

The pilot portal also provides a set of pre-built applications and visualizations for certain datasets.

New data portals and open data initiatives

August 12, 2013 Leave a comment

The past few months have seen the launch of a number of new spatial data portals and open data initiatives as governments and organisations continue to liberate their data stores. The portals include the Open Geography Portal, providing access to the geographic information behind the national statistics published by the UK Office of National Statistics. The datasets have been made available for free under the terms and conditions of the Open Government Licence. Visitors to the site can search for a variety of statistics related spatial data sets including administrative boundaries, habitat, agriculture, postcode and INSPIRE compliant data themes in the extensive data catalog.

ONS Geography Portal

ONS Geography Portal

Although having open access to spatial data resources such as the ONS repository is beneficial, the current design of the ONS portal highlighted some of the same issues with map portals we identified in an earlier post, primarily the lack a focussed and intuitive front end to identify relevant data sets quickly.

As for open data initiatives, the European Commission has recently agreed to provide free access to data captured by its new Sentinel Earth satellites. After a protracted evaluation process, and following the example of the US Government’s Landsat program, the Commission concluded that the benefits of making the data available for free, with the anticipated growth in value-added services based on the data, outweighed any potential harm to private sector satellite operators (Source: SpaceNews). The first three Sentinel satellites are expected to be launched within the next year. Originally known as the GMES (Global Monitoring for Environment and Security) project, the new program of data capture has been renamed Copernicus.